‘No fault’ divorce – an effective means for co-parenting to flourish

After years of planning, ‘no fault’ divorce has finally become a reality in England and Wales. Thanks to the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which comes into effect from 6th April 2022, the divorce process has been dramatically reformed by removing the concept of fault: neither partner has to accept blame for the ending of their marriage.

For the 230,000 people who get divorced in the UK each year, it certainly makes things easier and simpler. Under the Act, the only ground for divorce between the parties is that their relationship has ‘irretrievably broken down’. No other justification is needed to grant divorce.

Either party can make an application for divorce and if both partners agree that their marriage has broken down irretrievably, they are now able to make a joint application.

After a minimum ‘cooling off’ period of 20 weeks, the applicant(s) can confirm that they want to proceed with the divorce. The court can then make a Conditional Order (previously a Decree Nisi), and after a further minimum period of six weeks, it can make the Final Order (previously a Decree Absolute).

Accordingly, ‘no fault’ divorce simplifies previous practices and minimises conflict between divorcing couples, allowing them to dispense with any necessity to apportion blame and focus instead on the important issues: property, finances, and most notably, children.

In any divorce involving children, their welfare is of paramount concern. A ‘no fault’ divorce does not affect existing childcare arrangements, although it can potentially make them easier to settle. Having removed the animosity that often arises in assigning blame, more productive conversations around children can take place and court proceedings do not have to be issued if an agreement can be reached.

‘No fault’ divorces are therefore designed to reduce friction and benefit the children of separating parents by helping to ensure that family break-ups have as little impact on them as possible.

By reducing conflict, ‘no fault’ divorces create the opportunity for a more positive future for children with divorced parents.

In reaching agreement on child arrangements, the new 20-week period following the divorce application should allow both parties sufficient time to resolve their issues before a Conditional Order is issued. Hopefully, this will avoid children being caught up in any tug-of-love between their parents and allow for effective co-parenting to flourish.

In facilitating a more amicable break-up and by prioritising children, it is anticipated that the process of ‘no fault’ divorces will make the mental and emotional strain easier for them to bear and help to preserve their well-being. At a difficult time for the family, this should benefit many lives long term.